Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Here are a few nice summer restaurant bargains I've stumbled upon in recent weeks:
1. The sushi restaurant Kyoto off Route 1 near the Kennett Walmart is offering a lunch special, $6.99 for two rolls. Both my lunch partner and I took advantage of it last Thursday. I had the salmon and tuna rolls, very tasty.
2. Iron Hill Brewery in downtown West Chester is offering a hearty 14-oz prime rib special on Sundays.
It comes with a pint of house beer (or wine), either a salad or soup, a vegetable, and a baked potato with horseradish sauce and sour cream. I couldn't believe it when the bill arrived: a prime rib dinner for two people for under $50! And there were plenty of leftovers; the dog just finished off the last scraps tonight. Take a look at Iron Hill's website for details.
3. And just this morning I had breakfast at Perkins in Avondale, where the "Magnificent 7" special is on sale for $2.99 from 6 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday. Amazing.


Goodbye to Jody Shoemaker of Kennett Township. I had the pleasure of volunteering with Jody for several years on the Bayard Taylor Library's Special Events Committee (the people who bring you the Home & Garden Day each spring).
I was stunned to see in her obituary that Jody was 87, as she was very energetic and looked and acted much younger. I remember watching her on the tennis court, just relaxing at the baseline and hitting with complete consistency. Condolences to her husband Chuck, a former Kennett Township supervisor.

Technology old and new

You can tell that once-hip Facebook has been suborned by hordes of us middle-aged people. The most recent fad seems to be posting photos of "things that aren't here anymore" and asking your peers to identify them and reminisce fondly about them. Examples? Eight-track-cassettes. Foot pedals for headlight dimmer switches. Metal ice-cube trays. Roller skates with skate keys. The Charles Chips home-delivery truck. Back issues of newspapers on microfiche. Those little plastic jobbies you stuck in the donut hole of 45s like "Daydream Believer" so you could play them on the stereo.
Time for a shameless family plug: Facebook, as I'm sure you know, was founded by Mark Zuckerberg while he was a Harvard undergrad. My nephew Merrill, a rising Harvard sophomore, is following in his entrepreneurial footsteps by developing and marketing a startup company called Pollvaultr, which collects and analyzes point-of-sale survey information from consumers. Check it out online. Yes, that's him narrating the video!


The Lycoris squamigera shocks me every summer. It appears seemingly out of nowhere: all of a sudden, there are these amazing stalks with reddish/mauve buds! I even think it springs up in different spots in my garden each year. Its nickname is an apt one: Surprise Lily.
A loyal reader adds:
"Another nickname for Lycoris is, I believe, Naked Lady, because of the lack of foliage and probably the pink hue. Story about that: a friend once phoned someone with whom she'd been discussing these flowers and burst out as soon as the phone was picked up: `I've just found several more Naked Ladies in my garden!' A silence, then:  `Lady, I think you have the wrong number.' "

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mycologist alert

My long-suffering friends are all too familiar with my habit of spotting a bit of foliage (which they probably didn't even notice) and then stopping abruptly to examine, photograph, and discuss it at length. The latest example: I spotted this mushroom growing on a decaying willow stump along one of my favorite one-lane roads. Can anyone identify it? It's 2.5 inches across and 3.5 inches high. The gills are separate from the stem, which doesn't have a collar. I'm making a spore print.

First Day

Some of the smaller Quaker meetinghouses in our area aren't used year-round anymore, but they open up for Meeting for Worship in August. Everyone is welcome, and I've found these rarely used meetinghouses to be rich in history and atmosphere. Maps and more information are available at www.localquakers.org.
  • Penns Grove Meeting, 10 a.m. Sunday, August 26. Take the Route 1 bypass to Route 896, go north on Route 896 to the first intersection and turn left. The meetinghouse is an eighth of a mile on the right.
  • Homeville Meeting, 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 26. Take the Route 1 bypass to Route 896, go north on Route 896 into the village of Homeville. Turn left and the meetinghouse is on the right, inside the stone wall.
  • Parkersville Meeting, 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 9. The meetinghouse is on the east side of Parkersville Road between Route 926 and Route 1.


Of course, everybody's talking about the Olympic Games in London. I'm not much of a TV viewer -- in fact, I don't even subscribe to cable TV (much to Verizon's disgust) -- but over the weekend I tuned in while I was visiting some friends.
It's certainly very exciting to see our local Unionville equestrians competing on the world scene. But I'm an enthusiastic, if unskilled, athlete, and while I was watching the women's soccer team play against Colombia, I just wanted to get out there and run around and get sweaty rather than being a couch spud.
Did you see the segment where John McEnroe was interviewing American swimmer Ryan Lochte about his training regimen? Didn't that look like fun, the tossing of medicine balls in particular? (Maybe not so much the flipping over of huge tires, though; like I could even budge one!)
And how about those close-ups of the Chinese gymnasts' injuries? "You can see the bruising," pointed out the announcer. Ouch! Get that man an ice pack stat. Thank goodness there's no video person around documenting my bruises -- say, the ones that result from doing bent-knee crunches with an 18-lb bar balanced on your shins.

Smart pets

All you corgi fans out there will like this one, for sure! (I happen to be an aunt to two of the delightful little weasels.)
Val Muller, a self-described "English teacher by day, writer by night," has just published "Corgi Capers: Deceit on Dorset Drive," which she describes as "a middle-grade mystery" inspired by her Pembroke Welsh Corgis, Yoda and Leia. "The story takes place in a fictional town in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a location that is special to me from family vacations and my undergraduate years at Franklin & Marshall College."
Synopsis: "Fifth-grader Adam Hollinger looked forward to an ordinary summer: All-Star baseball practice, reading comic books, begging his parents for a dog, and avoiding his mischievous older sister. But things get crazy when the Hollingers adopt two corgi puppies and the team’s star pitcher breaks his arm. Even worse, a serial burglar has been targeting the neighborhood, and the Hollingers’ house is on the list. When the adults of the town become stumped, it’s up to Adam and the puppies to set things straight."

I have already ordered a copy for the Young Relative (shhh, please don't tell him!).
For more information and an excerpt, you can visit www.corgicapers.com or the author's website.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Children's garden

Well done, Carol Krawczyk!
The Kennett resident, who is principal of Research-Based Design, reports that "my article on my post-occupancy evaluation for Longwood Gardens' Indoor Children's Garden was published by the American Society of Landscape Architects yesterday! Doing this form of evaluation for public gardens, public and private spaces is one of the interesting things I do as a landscape architect and researcher."
Carol's analysis of the children's garden found that it "engages people, especially children, for a number of reasons: 1) Water is a powerful element that engages people of all ages. 2) While people are attracted to things through sight, they tend to engage with the environment when they can touch it. 3) The configuration of space considers both activities and the “scale” of the users. 4) The climate of the indoor children’s garden provides a stable environment regardless of weather. These characteristics provide opportunities that are not always found in traditional children’s gardens – but should be!"

Friday, July 27, 2012

Full of beans

I was grocery-shopping with a pal the other day and it struck her how dramatically meal preparation changes when you get married. When she was single, if she made a big pot of chili, she'd have leftovers the next day, and she'd freeze the rest. Now that she has a husband with a hearty appetite, that same pot of chili disappears immediately. Leftovers? What leftovers?

Weather alert

That was some storm last night (Thursday, July 26)! I was driving home from dinner at the Stottsville Inn at 7 and there were ominous clouds covering the sky to the north and the wind was bending trees and whipping up clouds of dust. I just wanted to get home and hunker down.
As soon as I pulled in the driveway I saw that one of the big pines had been snapped off by the wind (the tree was weakened by a previous lightning strike). Yard cleanup time today, though I'm very much afraid my usually enthusiastic branch-hauling is going to be hampered by my still-tender incision. The storm brought with it two rounds of rain, VERY much needed.
By the way, I've heard that during a couple recent road closures due to downed trees, on Route 82 and on Route 41, the state police have been very vigilant about ticketing impatient motorists who try to bypass the "Road Closed" signs. Heads up.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Runners at Runnymede

The first-ever Chasin' for Chalfin 10K run on July 21 brought 165 athletes to the magnificent Runnymede estate west of Unionville.
The beneficiary is Jake Chalfin, who suffered a spinal cord injury when he came off his horse while competing in a steeplechase last year. Jake told me he was very pleased with the turnout and said the weather "couldn't have been more perfect," as it was 65 degrees when the runners set out at 8:30 a.m.
The cross-country course took them through hay fields and woods and over fences, and they had to make six creek crossings. On Saturday evening I saw a family who ran in the race and asked them how they were feeling. "Exhausted!" they chorused.
The money raised, a net of $3,000, will go toward Jake's daily caregiving expenses. He has helpers looking after him three or four hours a day now, down from the 24/7 care he needed when he first returned home. He's also having the kitchen in his Springdell home renovated so he can do his own cooking, and he'll be participating in a new therapy program called Project Walk (www.projectwalk.org).
A pregnant friend of mine (so exciting!) posted a photo of herself at the run, revealing her distinctly "showing" belly: "Afterward, I declared myself the unofficial winner of the 1.5-person division." 


Yesterday evening my long-time tennis partner and I were out playing, and two teenaged boys were on the court next to ours.
They were not taking their game very seriously, and they hit one ball onto our court, making us replay a point. Then another one.
The third time they did it, I said sternly, "Boys. Do that ONE MORE TIME and you are going to be our ball boys."

They looked scared to death. It did the trick.

Online feed

Coursera, a company founded by two Stanford professors, is going to be offering free online courses, open to anyone with Internet access, reports the July 18 "Wall Street Journal." Among the initial courses being offered that might interest some locals: Equine Nutrition.
Online education is apparently a controversial topic in higher education, with proponents saying it provides broader distribution of knowledge in a more convenient format, while others say it lacks the advantages of the traditional classroom experience.


A standard theme of horror movies is a peevish Mother Nature venting her wrath upon callous humanity. Think M. Night Shyamalan's "The Happening" (which was filmed partly in Unionville!).
Better yet, think Tilda's garden this summer.
In the past month I have lost a pair of gym shorts and a checkbook. Both resulted in dervish-like but unsuccessful searches of my home and car and some unladylike language. I gave them up for lost and called the bank to cancel the few remaining checks (a $15 fee, which I deserved for my carelessness).
I have since found both items. The gym shorts were buried in the fast-growing lamium under my clothesline, and as far as their condition goes, let's just say we don't need to worry about discarded gym shorts piling up in landfills like we do about plastic bottles.
Obviously, I dropped the shorts while bringing in my clothes from the line in a hurry. But how the checkbook ended up underneath some ferns in an obscure spot near my deck steps remains a mystery. It was dirty and soaking wet, but I managed to salvage the check register.

Out, out ...

I know some of you were worried about me after reading my item about skin cancer last week, and for that I apologize. I had my Mohs surgery on July 24 and it couldn't have gone better. I left Unionville at 6:30 a.m. and got to the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine at Penn at 7:45 (I didn't stop ONCE from Coatesville to South Street, 30 miles without a check!). They numbed me up, took it out, looked at the sample under the microscope to make sure it was all clear and then sewed me back up (and beautifully). I was out of there by 11 a.m. and home by 12:30.
Thanks to all of my friends who kept me -- and the medical staff -- amused with your emails, texts and Facebook postings to me throughout the morning. Here's the view I had, looking east toward Center City. I will spare you photographs of the surgical action, though I have some great ones!
The surgeon who did my procedure, Dr. Christopher Miller, is a total rock star: expert, focused, calm, matter-of-fact, gentle, in control. And the nurses and staff are top-notch; they made things as easy and pleasant for me as they could possibly be, physically and mentally, even asking what music I wanted to listen to (alas, Pandora was on the fritz, playing two channels at once and commingling "Hang on Sloopy" and "Call Me Maybe"). And they kept thanking ME for being "such a good sport"!
What does this have to do with Unionville? I know that many of you spend a lot of time outdoors, and a significant number of skin cancers are sun-related (though mine wasn't). Keep an eye on any iffy spots and bumps, anywhere on your body, and "have a low threshold" (in Dr. Miller's phrase) for getting them checked out. I was sure mine was just a skin tag.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A spot of bother

Because of a little bump that turned out to be NOT the innocent skin tag it looked like, I recently visited the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, where they do a nifty, precise skin-cancer procedure called Mohs surgery.
You can imagine my joy about having to haul all the way into Philadelphia, but let me assure you: the people who run the Penn health system TOTALLY roll out the red carpet for us timid suburbanites. I am almost certain they hosted a catered focus-group session and asked, "What would it take for you to come to our hospital?"
From my very first contact, I was impressed. The scheduling guy was polite, intelligent, well-spoken and professional. He connected me to registration without dropping the call. He e-mailed the doctor a question I had, and called me back with the answer sooner than he said he would. 
A few days after I made the appointment I received a nice-looking folder with a graphic of the Perelman Center on the cover. Inside, the first thing I saw was the hospital's statement of ethics, all about care and compassion and respect. There's a personalized booklet explaining the procedure, not the blurry WhiteOut-ed photocopies that pass for patient education at some other facilities.
Of course, driving and parking are big concerns for us suburbanites, so they provide precise driving directions that don't take you through any even remotely questionable areas. Valet parking is available, although I opted for one of the parking garages (they validate your parking).
As soon as I got out of my car and walked toward the elevator, someone was there asking me if I needed directions.
And this was all before I set foot in the gleaming new hospital itself! Once there, I met the head (!) of Dermatologic Surgery, Dr. Christopher Miller, who introduced himself simply as "Chris." You can check him out on the "Men's Health" magazine website; there's a video of him doing the same procedure on a "Men's Health" editor that he's going to be doing on me, and another of him giving anti-skin cancer tips.
He was kind, matter-of-fact, reassuring, efficient and -- how else can I say this? -- human, and the nurses were great. I'm not surprised this practice draws patients from far and wide. All in all: If your doc advises going into the city for something special, DO NOT be deterred by the distance, or the drive, or the minor inconvenience, or the fact that you won't recognize anyone. It is really impressive.
Oh, and keep an eye on any funny skin spots you may notice.

Cease & desist overturned

Breaking news on this Friday afternoon (July 20): The Chester County Court of Common Pleas has overturned the cease-and-desist order against The Whip Tavern in Springdell. That means the Whip can go back to using the property next door as an office and for storage. It's a victory for common sense over the litigation-happy neighbors -- the "Springdell 8" -- who have nearly bankrupted West Marlborough Township.
Quoting from The Whip's Facebook posting:
"The cost to the taxpayers of West Marlborough to return us to exactly where we were before all of this hullabaloo? Nearly $100,000.00. Residents may want to attend the 7/30 public hearing on the proposed 0.5% earned income tax, which will be used to pay the township's ballooning legal bills."
I couldn't have put it better, and I hope my fellow township residents come out in force for this hearing. See you on Monday, July 30, at 8 p.m. in the township building in Doe Run. (There's also a hearing the same night at 7 p.m. for the proposed Springdell and London Grove parking ordinance.)


A friend and I weren't in much of a work mood on Friday, so we decided to run errands and have lunch. At our first stop, a neighbor's farm, we joined parents and grandparents to watch some adorable kids riding in their first horse show. It's amazing to think that in no time at all those little girls will go from hesitantly jumping crossed rails to vaulting fearlessly over the huge fences at Plantation Field.
Then we headed east on Route 926 to check out the Brandywine Ace hardware store, which is where Unionville Feed has moved. They're still in the process of combining stores, so we can't really render a verdict yet, but they already had in stock everything on my friend's supply list except for a halter for the donkey. The helpful clerk gave us our loading ticket and we drove out back into the big storage shed, where Bob loaded our shavings and bags of feed into the pickup.
We asked him for a lunch recommendation and he suggested Lenape Pizza on Route 52 in Pocopson. We stopped in and while we were at the counter looking at the menu, another customer assured us that everything they make is delicious. We had an eggplant parmesan sandwich and a meatball sandwich, and so far he was correct. It's a nice little lunch place and while we were there we watched the press conference about the dreadful Aurora shootings. How impressive were the governor and the police chief! They were both so well spoken in a nearly impossible situation.
After lunch we stopped off at Baily's Dairy for milk and local corn (it was very tasty). It was too bad I was full from lunch; normally I buy a little container of chocolate milk for the road.
All in all, an excellent way to spend a few hours on an overcast Friday!


Why, you ask, is there a portable toilet sitting alongside Route 82, between Doe Run and Blow Horn?
It's for the PennDOT workers who have been reinforcing the concrete underneath the small metal-grid bridge that crosses the Doe Run. Seems to me it's been sitting there a really long time, though.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Number, please

On Monday my parents made settlement on their adorable new home in East Marlborough, so we've all been over there regularly helping them to move in. On this evening's trip we pointed out to the Young Relative the old-fashioned rotary phone that the previous owner had left behind. He knew what it was, like my generation would be able to identify, say, a Victrola, but we had to show him how to operate it.
I had not seen a rotary phone in action for years, and we all stood watching mesmerized as the dial spun back into place with each number. I'd forgotten how annoying it was when your finger slipped out of the hole JUST as you were dialing the last digit of the seven-digit number -- and you had to hang up immediately and start over.
I asked him if he wanted a vintage phone like that instead of a smart phone.
"No!" he exclaimed emphatically. "It's too hard! It's too slow!"

On the river

I got a call yesterday from Josh Christopher, the front man for the band I Am Love and one of the brains behind the first-ever Brandywine Folk Festival, which is going to be held from 2 to 11 p.m. Saturday, July 28, at Brandywine Outfitters in Mortonville.

I asked Josh how he came up with idea for the festival, and he said it was a collective attempt to bring together local bands with higher-profile ones. One "given" was that it simply had to be held along the river because "we spend all summer in the Brandywine."
"By inviting national and internationally touring bands to play alongside local, this festival aims to collude the tasteful stylings of many different musicians, while creating a family friendly atmosphere, giving back to our community, and providing aid for charity," says the festival's website.
The lineup will be Paleface, the Pretty Dittys, Kit Colt, Tim Celfo, Sidney Joseph, The Hundred Acre Woods, Pedro & Pearl, Echoes Talk Back, Pete Bush and the Hoi Polloi, and (of course) I Am Love.
Funds from the festival will go to a nonprofit agency that benefits Haiti, an issue that is close to Josh's heart: he has been to the beleaguered nation several times and is planning to make another relief trip this fall.
Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 on the day. Josh said they are being sold at Fennario's coffeeshop and Moonflower, both in downtown West Chester, and at Del Bittle's music shop along Route 842 near Unionville. Lots more information is on the website.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Play on

My instructor at the gym today forgot to bring her iPad with her, so for music she had to rely on the CDs that were in the aerobics room. It was a mixed bag, kind of like the books that a clueless hostess would leave on a bedside table in the guest room: a collection of Patti Griffin's slowest ballads; "Halloween Sounds of Horror" ("those are our ab muscles screaming," commented one classmate); faux-reggae adaptations of pop hits; and a playlist for a Body Combat class that consisted of jacked-up versions of "Rollin' on the River" and "Because the Night" played at triple speed.
We urged her not to forget her iPad again.


What kind of a divorce settlement did Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes reach?
Don't ask me: as soon as I picked up a "People" magazine while waiting at Tolsdorf Oil Lube Express, the tech guy told me my car was already done. Excellent, speedy service, polite employees, free Keurig coffee, a clean waiting room -- and they vacuum the inside of your vehicle!

Tolsdorf has several locations; I went to the one on Route 1 near Longwood Gardens.

A fishy story

When the Michoacana Grill was closed for a week to clean up from the fire in the adjacent building, several people told me how much they'd miss the restaurant's fish tacos. I was determined to try them as soon as the place reopened.
I now see what they were talking about. Oh my gosh, they are good! Fish steaks, salsa (I asked for the spicy kind), cilantro, shredded lettuce, onions and "fish sauce," wrapped in your choice of a flour, corn or crunchy taco. Three for $7.50.
The Grill -- yes, it's run by the same folks who run the popular Michoacana ice-cream shop -- is at Cypress and Union Streets, and there's a parking lot right next to the restaurant. You can eat at the sidewalk tables or get  your food "to go."

In the drink

More fallout from Friday the 13th!
An apparently disturbed woman wandered onto a Lamborntown Road farm here in West Marlborough, started up a old farm truck and drove it into the pond. State police and firefighters showed up with all their "water rescue" paraphernalia, but she had already gotten out of the truck -- the pond isn't a deep one -- and wasn't hurt. She was fortunate not to encounter the snapping turtle who lives in the pond; I'm told he's so gigantic that the water level drops by six inches when he hauls himself up onto the bank.
Township road crew member Hugh Lofting sent me this photo.


Remember when you were a kid and you'd lend a book or [record album/cassette/CD] to a friend and never, ever get it back? Your friend always had an excuse: "I haven't finished with it" or "My brother's listening to it."
Now, in middle age, it's those reusable ice packs. A few weeks back I took one to a friend's house to put on my elbow after tennis and -- foolishly -- left it there in his freezer.
He used the ice pack on his sore knee and said he especially liked the practical sleeve that I knitted for it to keep it in place.
Once his knee was feeling better, I asked for it back.
"I got stung by a bee," he said, voice quavering piteously. "I still need it."

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Those nice bright colors

I got a very late start with the flower garden this year, but the flowers seem to be catching up, despite all the dry, hot weather! Last year's crested celosia and statice were an epic fail, but this year's plants seem to be doing much better. And for my money no zinnia beats the "Cut and Come Again" variety for arrangements, but for some reason it's getting really hard to track down.

Good taste

One of Tilda's best pals was at a West Chester-area state store on Saturday and happened to pick up the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's free quarterly publication, "Taste." While reading through it, she was delighted to see that K. C. Kulp, one of the owners of The Whip Tavern in West Marlborough, is quoted in an Olympics tie-in story about the food and drink of England!
K. C. gives his recipes for a drink called "The Whipster" (cucumber slices, mint, gin, soda water and lemon-lime soda) and Whip classic Bubble and Squeak (a potato, leek and cabbage dish).

In with the new

Rave reviews so far for the new Genuardi's-turned-Giant grocery store in East Marlborough. I didn't have enough experience with the old store to compare, so I asked two family members for their opinions.
My mother said the new Giant is "twenty times better than the old store, at least!" She plans to make it her primary supermarket.
And my sister-in-law agreed, singling out for special mention the produce and the improved traffic flow of the store.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Friday the 13th

Does Friday the 13th have some kind of a carryover effect on cars and humans?
This past weekend:
1. Two friends' car batteries died (one was well overdue, the other wasn't).
2. A light on my dashboard came on, alerting me that my oil had only 15% of its life left.
3. A stone chipped a friend's windshield while she was on her way to a family reunion ... and then she hit a pothole and wrecked a tire.
4. A local trainer came off her horse and broke her right hand. 
5. Two friends got stung by bees. One of them had a bad and first-time-ever allergic reaction, but fortunately she was at a party with doctors, vets and nurses.
6. The latter bee-sting victim also got stepped on by her horse. "But I still managed to ride," she said.


I was torn today when I woke and heard the usually welcome noise of rain on the roof. On the one hand, it is so needed for the corn and other crops and for everyone's gardens and lawns.
On the other hand, why oh why did it have to happen on a Saturday when I was helping to run an event for 100 people from out of town, and for which I had argued strongly that no, we won't need to rent a tent?
Actually it all worked out for the best. We moved the morning portion of the proceedings indoors, and although it was a tad crowded a real sense of camaraderie developed. And by lunchtime the rain had lifted, though it was still overcast, and we could have lunch outdoors as planned. (By the way: Triple Fresh in Ercildoun does some awesome catering!)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Job description

I am deeply honored to serve on the board of a local historical group, but sometimes my duties go well beyond the four-meetings-a-year that I was promised would be all board membership would entail.
Yesterday the board president (who recruited me) and I loaded up cut tree branches from around the nonprofit's property and dumped them in the woods. I was standing there behind her pickup, sweating, impaled by rose thorns, tugging with all my strength-training might to try to dislodge the branches from the truck bed as my colleague pushed.
They weren't budging.
We paused. We both uttered the same oath.
I looked up at her.
"Four meetings a year, huh," I said.
She roared with laughter.
"Yeah, that's what we tell everybody!"

Along the way

Midsummer is a peculiar time for roadside flora. There's still a whiff of honeysuckle, but the multiflora rose, once so pungent, has been reduced to desiccated rose hips and the leaves look raggedy. The cow parsley, once so green and lush, is fried and brown. Dust kicked up from the road onto the verge has clotted onto cobwebs and powdered over the sheen of poison ivy leaves. The wineberries are especially plentiful this year.
If you get a chance, teach a kid how to make a shooter out of a plantain stalk. The Young Relative mastered this on maybe his second try, making me his target (per usual).
On my walk last night I spotted a harbinger of the next season: bittersweet berries, still green and tight. In a few months they'll be a brilliant red, with yellow hulls and brown pliable stems, perfect for fashioning into an autumnal wreath.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Reading Phillies

Two friends of mine went to a Reading Phillies game the other night and couldn't stop raving about what a great time they had. In addition to the baseball game itself, there was plentiful entertainment, including guys dressed up as vegetables having a foot race and an excellent, loud, half-hour fireworks display after the game, topped off with a very good rock band, Burning House.
"All this for nine dollars!" my friend exclaimed in disbelief.

Let's twist again

The Fallowfield Historical Society is holding a craft festival from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 28, to commemorate the 135th anniversary of the deadly Great Tornado that hit the village of Ercildoun on July 1, 1877.
"In keeping with the tornado theme, there will be a twist contest held at 2 p.m., with a cash prize to the winning couple," says the press release for the event. Other entertainment with include a DJ and a performance by the Coatesville Cultural Society, and Triple Fresh will be selling BBQ chicken.

The village of Ercildoun is on Route 82 at Buck Run Road in East Fallowfield Township. Rain date is Sunday, July 29.
You can find a fascinating and extraordinarily detailed account of the storm's path online.
The tornado, which started in Lancaster County on that hot Sunday afternoon back in 1877, traveled 22 miles through Sadsbury, Highland, East Fallowfield and West Bradford, wreaking a path of destruction 150 to 300 yards wide. Mary Hopkins of East Fallowfield was crushed to death when her house was overturned. Jacob Eisenberger was picked up by the tornado as he was walking along Strasburg Road. It carried him 200 yards and dropped him in a field; he suffered a broken jaw, a fractured shoulder blade and other injuries. Another man, Samuel Jackson of Parkesburg, was also badly hurt when he was hit by a door, breaking several ribs. Horses, cows and chickens were killed.
The tornado destroyed the Ercildoun Academy, razed or damaged several houses and barns, uprooted trees, ruined crops, tore apart railroad rails and dislodged a railroad bridge; property damage was estimated at $36,000. The storm was so violent that it was the subject of a lecture at the French Academy of Sciences the following year.


Do you remember the scene in "The Day of the Jackal" when The Jackal is at a fork in the road, assessing how much the police have learned about his deadly plans and whether he needs to tweak his strategy posthaste? He makes a quick decision, raises the roof of his convertible and speeds off over the mountains.
I feel that way sometimes at the end of my driveway. Left or right? There's a gym, a grocery store, and a Starbucks to either the left or the right, pretty much equidistant. The post office is to the left. My family is to the left, my most-visited friends to the right. I try to map out the most efficient errands strategy, though blackmail-minded forgers and libidinous aristocrats aren't usually on my agenda.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

See ya, seafood

The Kennett branch of Hill's Seafood has shut its doors. It's moving to a new store in Brinton Lake, set to open July 16. When I drove by the old store on July 10, workers were removing the fixtures. I don't know what the next incarnation of the former Boston Market will be.
And in Jennersville, Sweet Peas, the florist, just moved around the corner into the former Mr. Mulch building on Route 796. The former Sweet Peas building now houses a clothing consignment shop called Dressy Deal.


A reader just passed this horrible news along to me:
Sarah Libby Greenhalgh, a steeplechase racing writer and photographer for the "Horse of Delaware Valley" and a reporter for the "Winchester (Va.) Star," died in a fire in her home Monday, July 9, near Upperville, Va. The fire is still under investigation by the Fauquier Sheriff’s Department; they are considering it a possible homicide.
I have been reading her stories for years and am in shock.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Mail call

A gym friend of mine from West Grove was thrilled and relieved to receive a letter from her son, who just started Army basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
He said he's meeting nice people from all over the country, he finds the mental rigor harder than the physical challenges so far, and he misses his family. He also said he has two nice drill sergeants.
"I was like, WHAT?!" said my friend. "They must have been standing over him making him write that."
I looked at Fort Jackson's website to learn about the lad's experiences, and the person who wrote the copy clearly is a master of understatement: "The Army trains for about 12-14 hours a day, Monday through Saturday. We try to avoid too much sitting in a classroom...but it does happen. We also spend a little bit of time outside; getting some fresh air and, when the opportunity presents itself, a little exercise."

911 funding

The West Marlborough supervisors have gone on record as agreeing with other local municipalities that any additional funds needed to operate the county's 911 emergency system should be collected by the county, not individual townships.
At the July 3 meeting, Bill Wylie, who heads the township board of supervisors, said they would write a letter to the county commissioners "that lets them know townships don't have extra cash floating around these days" and that the supervisors believe the $5-per-resident fee would be "more efficiently collected at the county level."
Township resident Bernie Langer emphasized to the board how important the 911 system is and urged that it be supported by whatever means necessary. He said he spoke from personal experience: he recently used the emergency system to summon an ambulance, and without their prompt response, "you'd have one monkey off your back."

Friday, July 6, 2012

Folk Fest

A young friend asked me to mention that the Brandywine Folk Collective will be hosting the Brandywine Folk Festival along the -- you guessed it -- Brandywine River in Mortonville, starting at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 28. Performers will be "folk legend Paleface, i am Love, Kit Colt, the Pretty Ditty's, Pedro and Pearl, 100 Acre Woods, and more TBA." Tickets are $10, and for more information about the show visit the "Brandywine Folk Festival" event page on Facebook.

Good food served quickly

Mary Hutchins, the executive director of Historic Kennett Square, sent me a message about last week's story concerning Larry Bosley's request to allow "multiple fast food restaurants" at his office building at 148 West State Street.
She wrote:
"`Fast food' in the zoning code refers to any food that is served without wait staff like, Talula's Table, La Michoacana, Sammy's Sub Shop etc. Larry and Geoff Bosley have no intention of bringing in a `stereotypical' fast food restaurant. They are planning on creating an open air market similar to the Ardmore Market and may have vendors such as a coffee shop, ice cream or frozen yogurt etc."
They need a special exception to do so, and the hearing will be held before the borough's zoning hearing board July 24 at 7 p.m. at Borough Hall.

Shades of gray

Just overheard in the Giant, as a Mom with two little girls walked through the hair-dye section. 
Daughter: "Mommy, what's this for?"
Mom: "Well, some people don't like the color Mother Nature made their hair."
Or perhaps, we liked the color Mother Nature ORIGINALLY made our hair just fine...

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Here's a useful tip for people who have Verizon FIOS Internet service. If your system is like mine, you have a white box somewhere linking you to the connection from the street. My box is in the garage. The other morning it was beeping sporadically, and a red battery warning light was glowing. My Internet connection is a critical part of my life, so I noted the battery details and headed out to Radio Shack to buy a replacement.
They know all about FIOS systems there: I barely had to mentions the specs before they had the correct battery in my hands. They also suggested that when I got home, I should unplug the battery, wait 10 minutes, and plug it back in. They said that often fixes the problem.
I did so, and the warning light went off and has stayed off. So now I have a backup battery, which I'm storing in the refrigerator. (My neighbor claims that extends battery life, and over the years I have observed that he's rarely wrong about anything.)

Shaking my head

A friend of mine performs a useful service that takes him into people's attics and basements. He was working in a sweltering attic the other day, in the midst of the heat wave. When he finished his job he came back downstairs and was approached by the homeowner.
"Don't sweat on the carpet," she instructed him.
I was astonished when he related this story to me.
"Was she KIDDING?" I asked him.
"Ohhhh, no," he said.
Now that is just plain abominable behavior. He's another human being (and, in this case, a military veteran and a good guy). Offer him a towel and a drink. You're worried about your carpet? Put down a runner for the guy to walk on. 
Like the old saying goes: If you treat people like dirt, you haven't come very far from the ground yourself.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Township business

Put July 30 on your schedule if you live in West Marlborough. The township supervisors will be holding public hearings on two contentious topics: (1) at 7 p.m., a zoning amendment that would allow off-site parking in the villages of Springdell and London Grove and (2) at 8 p.m., a 0.5 percent earned income tax assessed on township residents.
The common thread linking these two issues is the Whip Tavern, the Springdell bar/restaurant that is popular with everyone except a few of its neighbors (known as the "Springdell 8"). The Springdell 8 have complained vociferously about the parking problems at the Whip. In response, the township first banned parking on the shoulders of Springdell Road, but the problem has persisted: the lot is simply too small.
Which leads to Issue 1, the proposed zoning amendment, which would allow a business to have parking on a  separate lot from the principal use in the township's Village-Residential zones (Springdell and London Grove village). The logic, according to the proposed amendment, is that many of the lots in the zone "do not meet the minimum lot area requirement thereby resulting in principal uses on lots that do not have adequate space for the use." (That would certainly seem to be the case with the Whip.)
The parking lot has to be within 150 feet of the main property, 500 feet if there's "a continuous off-street path, sidewalk or accessway that directly connects with the principal use."  The ordinance includes regulations on the off-site uses in terms of size, lighting and signage. (The township planning commission suggested forbidding overnight parking and requiring the lights to be turned off after closing.)
Cathy Huston, one of the Springdell 8, objected to the amendment at the July 3 township meeting, saying that nonconforming uses like the Whip "don't really belong there" and should be tolerated only if "they stay their right size." The Whip, she said, has "greatly expanded" and "outgrown its space," and lifting the parking restrictions "flies in the face of the zoning ordinance." 
Moving on to Issue 2, the earned income tax. The township has tried several times to broker a compromise between the Whip and the neighbors, but to no avail. The Springdell 8 have filed several ongoing legal challenges against the Whip, and because of these actions West Marlborough Township has incurred legal and engineering fees of at least $50,000 -- and rising. Coupled with the decrease in income from the real-estate transfer tax, the township has had to borrow from other accounts and has proposed this tax as the best way of raising the needed money to get back on its financial feet.
Come to the hearing and let the supervisors know what you think.

Sad news

Two dozen Angus at a farm in East Fallowfield were electrocuted by a lightning strike during the thunderstorms that blew through our area early June 29. I saw a photograph of the poor creatures lying lifeless on the ground. 

Another victim of the storm, though far less significant, was West Marlborough Township secretary Shirley Walton's work computer. Lightning fried both the computer and the router at the township office. Another expense for our beleaguered township (I'm told the loss might or might not be covered by insurance).

Jan Dorothy

I spotted this little sign outside the Kennett Y the other day and a vivid memory of Jan came back to me. The aerobics class that I took for years followed the one that she taught, and so when I came into the Y I'd always see her sitting in the lobby chatting with her friends. She'd always make a point of greeting me, with a fond "my dear." She was a warm, delightful, loving human being.

Photo search

A Unionville friend asks:
"Where would you go, or who would you ask, for historical photos of the old Brandywine Hounds or VicMead Hunt?  I’m trying to dig up a photo of Frank V. Turner, who hunted hounds for both back in the 1950’s.  Both hunts have since folded, and I don’t know who might have a photo collection."
Please contact me (uvilleblogger@gmail.com) if you can help her out. (After all, she's the one who came up with Tilda's nom de plume!)


I am in utter awe of the athletes who rode in the Chester County Grand Prix bike races that went through our township last week. I just got home from watching the July 4 Road Race, whose start and finish line was at Brooklawn on Newark Road. I was sitting on a stone wall, under a walnut tree, with a nice breeze, friends and a Victory beer. In contrast, the bicyclists were out there racing, hard, pushing themselves to their limits in 90-degree weather.
"This is like riding 92 miles in an E-Z Bake Oven," said the announcer at one point.
"That's a very good description," agreed one exhausted cyclist as he passed me, walking back to his vehicle.  
According to a press release I received the next day: "Over 400 cyclists in seven different categories competed in yesterday’s Chesco Road Race, which also served as the Pennsylvania State Road Race Championship for the Masters and Elite men’s classes.  The 13.2-mile circuit was an up-and-down challenge for cyclists who raced from 2 laps (26 miles) for juniors and novices to 7 laps (92 miles) for the pro/elite men’s category ..."
"Only half of the eighty riders who started the featured pro race were able to finish as temperatures soared into the mid nineties during the nearly four hour race. An early breakaway of nine riders built up a nearly four-minute lead before falling apart as the heat and hills took its toll in the closing laps."
From a spectator's point of view, it was great fun watching and cheering, even if we didn't understand the intricacies of racing strategy -- and what a nice way to show off our township's beautiful countryside. I understand there were some traffic problems earlier in the day on Newark Road between 82 and 842, and when I arrived at noon they had closed that stretch of the road. I parked at the Upland corner and walked in.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

On the grid

The other night at dinner, my mother posed a question to me.
This is not uncommon. I believe I have previously described my mother as the world's most inquisitive person, a characterization that no one in the family or the larger community would dispute.
Anyhow, she wanted me to find out what those yellow grids are that are showing up on roadside utility poles.
I accepted the challenge (not that I had any choice).
So on the way home from dinner I was on the lookout for these yellow grids, and I found one in Unionville, pulled off a little bit up the road and walked back to snap a quick photo.
While I was returning to the car, two friends happened to be driving by and stopped, fearing I had car trouble and might need a ride.
I explained what I was doing and -- just because this is how things work in my world --  the husband knew what the yellow grids were, because PECO had just installed a bunch of them near his farm, and he had asked them the same question.
They are safety reflectors.
I emailed my long-suffering father on the spot and told him the answer so he could relay it to Mum.
"Thank you," he wrote back. "Now I can get some sleep."

Penny is wise

How I love my sharp-eyed readers.
Penny from Kennett Square pointed out in an email that I should have used "farther" instead of "further" in my item a few weeks back about the bicyclist I saw on a usually deserted West Marlborough road: "He must have turned around and come back down, because maybe a half mile further along he zoomed past me, waving."
She's absolutely right, and to think that I call myself a grammar queen. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? My readers, obviously! Thank you, Penny!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

New restaurant

Here's hoping this brand-new restaurant on Baltimore Pike, west of Kennett Square, has better luck than its predecessors. It seems that nothing has done well in this spot since the much-loved Barnwood Restaurant closed down some years ago. When I drove by on Sunday afternoon, it was already open for business.